Friday, 21 June 2013

Connected Learning Mooc (clmooc)

So I've joined clmooc and I'm a little late to the party. But that's ok because this is a "participate when you want, where you can, do what you want to do" mooc. A "choose your own adventure" mooc. Similar to Teachtheweb, which I didn't do as much in as I should have....code avoidance?! Plus I got distracted by a pottery project (that originated from a response to a remix of my introductory web page in Thimble by Margaret Powers in our Mini Maker sub group. How cool it that!  But pottery takes so much longer than writing something online. I've made the plates, done the pencil sketches for the designs, decided on the technique (Black slip on greenware, then painted the design on in underglaze, then bisque fired, then colour correct (wouldn't you know it, Spectrum Bright Orange peeled from the black slip during bisquing!), then it's back to the kiln for the glaze fire. So I'm waiting for the first to plates to come out of the kiln. Throw in some serious family issues and you've got decreased participation in everything. I'm still working through Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence (Coursera) and I have an assignment due on June 25th I'd like to finish for that (it actually was inspiring-imagine that!) Best Coursera course I've taken so far (would actually think about enrolling at that school just to hang with the professor!) so I need to keep plugging away at that. Interestingly, students created a Google+ group for that course on our own. You'd think with all the social media tools out there Coursera could make their forum a little more interactive. I've been continuing to participate in Open Spokes ( and we need new people if you'd like to join) as well as continuing with the postETMOOC reading blog. This month, we've been looking at Hybrid Pedagogy. If you  haven't had a look at the site, it's got some great stuff on it. They really want to get the K-12 set contributing to their thinking, so think of stepping up to the plate.

I'd like to thank Sheri Edwards (as usual- a most awesome woman and teacher) for tweeting me and sending me her blog link to this week's clmooc activities so I am back on track. What would I do without my PLN? Thanks to Vanessa Vaile for sharing her Visify project as well.

So now I have to do the dreaded task of attaching my blog to the RSS feed. As usual, there's been enough time between the last time I did this that I have to look it up again. Then's it off to explore the clmooc Google + community blog and contact five new people that catch my eye. With over 400 people in this group I know I won't be able to talk to everyone. But I am going to try.

Here is my Picassohead (thanks for the idea Sheri!)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Failure and failing

So this week's topic in our Openspokes fellowship is failure, something we are all intimately acquainted with, for who has not failed at a task, at a crucial moment, sometimes with serious consequences? Who ends up a goat and goes to hell? Failure has been the gristmill for religion, literature, history, science, psychology and philosophy for eons. We all know who arrived at the North Pole but rarely do we find out about who didn't. Fail and failure have always been negative words so it is interesting to see so many people trying to turn it into a positive just lately. I have failed spectacularly in the educational setting, more than once

Since beginning my exploratory journey of online educational communities, failure has been a constant thread running throughout the discussions.   Brendan Murphy and I discussed failure in April, Kirsten and Erin have already posted this week about failure and what it might mean in regards to learning and students. I like Erin's belief that what we are attempting to do is teach resiliency and I think that Kirsten is spot on when writing about learning as a cyclical process, that failure has no part in since it is seen as an end and not a beginning. And yet, we use the term fail/ failure constantly in education, particularly in summative evaluation/assessment. In fact, we're addicted to it.

As we move to change our curriculum to reflect the circular nature of learning, perhaps we may also finally let go of the idea of summative assessment and banish failure from the classroom and from the educational discussion. After all, who is the summative assessment for? The student? Not at all. They know where they are from personal experience and the formative evaluation they have been receiving during the year. Parents? I used to dread report card time, when it seemed to be a litany of what my child needed to do to improve and having to argue with my husband about the value of the report card. (Sadly my children told me this was how they viewed report card grades: A-could have done better, B-bad, C-death.) Teachers? Do we crave designing multiple choice tests? Close sentences?  Having students study for provincial standardized test? How do we feel about the cookie cutter remarks we have to use in report cards where we've had to tell a seven year old they are limited in their ability? What kind of accounting system are we using to evaluate our students when you're a failure at seven? Where does our belief in allowing children to develop at their own pace, to explore and play as they learn and grow fit in with our bureaucratic school system and its need to be validated through summative assessment? So who's to blame for the word failure being bandied about?

We all are.

This is a world wide problem tied to long standing ingrained cultural practice. Parents and students expect grades, teachers comply as part of their job, the school system and governments use grades and pass rates to be accountable to the public for their spending on education. We have to re-frame the discussion, not only within our own practice as teachers (how much summative assessment can we strip out of our teaching particularly as we move to allowing students the ability to govern their own education and develop skills of self-regulation) but also with students, parents, our school boards and our governments. Until we all begin to question the role of failure in our system, we'll continue to talk about what to do about failure instead of looking at the education of a student as a continuum, where students meet challenges, work to overcome them and move on to the next challenge at their own pace so they can be successful.

P.S. I am fascinated with what happened to our good old fashioned English words that meant failure before the use of failure became widespread in English. There are multiple words that mean something similar to fail/failure in Old English: dwelain- to deceive, mislead, lead into sin or error (this one is closest to the original Latin meaning), aleogan- to fail to fulfill, misbeodan- injure, do wrong to, gedreosan- fall, perish, fail and abreoĆ°an- fail, perish, be destroyed. All of these were replaced with the single word fail which is why there are so many definitions.